Skip to main content
Log in

Hypernarrativity, Storytelling, and the Relativity of Truth: Digital Semiotics of Communication and Interaction

  • Original Articles
  • Published:
Postdigital Science and Education Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

The aim of this paper is not to look directly at lies, bullshit, and fake news as a phenomenon drawing on a digital as well as neodigital era, but rather to analyze how their emergence is linked to underlying systemic processes. In this perspective, we wish to understand the functioning of online communication and interactions, in order to analyze why these new processes of socialization trigger a heavy production of fake news, bullshit facts, and viral misinformation. 

  • the digital era is not an era of illiteracy, but an era of hypernarrativity leading to the interconnection of semantic webs (Benhabib 2002) within and between online communities which need to rely on new ways of making meaning, formalizing it and telling it to the world—such as gifs or memes (Backhauge 2011);

  • the digital era thus becomes an era of storytelling, thanks to the format of social media themselves (Proulx et al. 2012), leading to heavy serialization and the force of hypercirculation of discourses, meaning that it is important to rely on “good stories” for the growth of virality, rather than truth as a cardinal value;

  • last but not the least, the accelerating influence of the philosophical stance of relativity in many fields of our social and political lives (Wagener & Rahimy 2015) has inevitably led to is ultimate avatar, namely the relativity of truth—which means that every speech act is seen as having the same relative truth value, whether they are coming from scientists, political activist, or random strangers on the Internet.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. 'Les discours n’appartiennent pas à des zones de pratiques délimitées. Situés dans l’interdiscours, considéré comme espace de circulation dynamique et conflictuel, ils sont traversés et investis par des objets sociaux qui prennent sens dans la pluralité des trajets interprétatifs auxquels participe le sujet en assumant différents rôles sociodiscursifs successifs,' author's translation.

  2. 'Me in the car: only 5 min left until I get to my job interview, but I do not see what could make me late. Yellow vests: picture,'author's translation.

  3. 'Yellow vests, how… (1) we see them; (2) they see themselves; (3) media see them; (4) the government sees them,'author's translation.

  4. 'Hedi Taleb: unbelievable, these guys hurt, blind and put people in the hospital every week, even the UN points it out, you shout ‘kill yourself’ at them and the drama begins!? This is crazy

    Mila Bischerour: Hedi Taleb ‘kill yourself’ these are not sweet words you tell someone stop it come on now

    Hedi Taleb: anyway these are only words or slogans, it’s completely harmless, yet they blind people, make them lose their hands, jaws, send them to the hospital, with irreversible consequences etc. you are just losing common sense

    Daniel Garcias: Hedi Taleb you are out of your mind

    Mac Adam: Nailik Lupin you are one funny dude… gesticulating and talking too much are your only motivations? Sébastien Charpié: Hedi Taleb oh these poor innocent demonstrators… when young people demonstrate for climate, nothing happens, it’s PEACEFUL! But when it’s the yellow vests it’s a mess and it’s the policemen’s fault??? [cut]…

    Nailik Lupin: Mac Adam says the penpusher [kissing smiley]

    Matthieu Pariso: Hedi Taleb the nonsense is that you are not intellectually able to understand why this slogan is intolerable…

    Sarah Lacroix: kill yourself! Since it’s not a big deal!,'author's translation

  5. 'Catherine Périn: it has been 5 months that French people have been revealing their demands and expectations in the street!!! [angry smiley] Suddenly everything becomes intelligible for the government that has let an unprecedented chaos happen in our country…

    Wolve Vince: Catherine Périn let I would even say encourage or spur

    Capu-Ci Ne Flo-Rale: elections are happening… so promises are on again… in case people would have become gullible!!!

    Domi Nov: Catherine Périn explain to me, 300,000 yellow vests at best during demonstration are better than 2,000,000 French people that have participated in the debate, why exactly???? If you had things to demand you could have participated with registers of grievances, on the Internet, in debates, you remind me of people who do not vote but are against people who are elected by French people who vote

    Wolve Vince: Domi Nov and they do not have the right to be against other people’s choices because they do not vote, I think that your vision of the world is a bit skimpy. Maybe they precisely chose not to participate in the great farce because of the very representative choices that are presented to them do not you think?

    Rod Celi: Well… Look at the price of gas and electricity… it’s still rising comfortably…

    Nicole Gaborit: Yes it’s good, and who will GIVE the conclusion? In the end Macron will decide… Moral of the story: all this rabbiting for nothing, except to build a campaign for the European elections with the money of taxpayers… [three violins playing],'author's translation.

  6. 'Si chaque raison susceptible de justifier une croyance ou une action est. relative à un contexte socioculturel local et ne peut pas être jugée par des individus qui évolueraient dans des contextes différents, alors la rationalité explosera en une multitude dispersée de raisons différentes et incommensurables,' author's translation.

References

  • Allrath, G., Gymnich, M., & Surkamp, C. (2005). Introduction: towards a narratology of TV series. In G. Allrath & M. Gymnich (Eds.), Narrative strategies in television series (pp. 1–43). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Auchlin, A. (2003). Compétence discursive et co-occurrence d’affects: ‘blends expérientiels’ ou (con)fusion d’émotions. In J.-M. Colletta & A. Tcherkassof (Eds.), Les émotions. Cognition, langage et développement (pp. 137–152). Mardaga: Sprimont.

    Google Scholar 

  • Backhauge, C. (2011). Insights into internet memes. Proceedings of the Fifth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, 42-49.

  • Baetens, J., & Truyen, F. (2013). Hypertext revisited. Leonardo, 46(5), 477-480. https://doi.org/10.1162/LEON_a_00644.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Benhabib, S. (2002). The Claims of Culture: Equality and Diversity in the Global Era. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Black, J., & Barnes, J. L. (2015). Fiction and social cognition: the effect of viewing award-winning television dramas on theory of mind. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9(4), 423-429. https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000031.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Booth, P. (2012). The television social network: exploring TV characters. Communication Studies, 63(3), 309-327. https://doi.org/10.1080/10510974.2012.674616.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boudon, R. (1995). Le juste et le vrai. Paris: Fayard.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boutaud, J.-J. (2004). Sémiotique et communication: un malentendu qui a bien tourné. Hermès. La Revue, 38(1), 96–102. https://doi.org/10.4267/2042/9431.

  • D’Ancona, M. (2017). Post-Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back. London: Ebury Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Danziger, E. (2006). The thought that counts: Understanding variation. In S. Levinson & N. Enfield (Eds.), The roots of human sociality: culture, cognition and human interaction (pp. 259–278). New York: Berg.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fairclough, N. (1992). Discourse and social change. Cambridge: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frijda, N. H. (2003). Passions: l’émotion comme motivation. In J.-M. Colletta & A. Tcherkassof (Eds.), Les émotions. Cognition, langage et développement (pp. 15–32). Mardaga: Sprimont.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garric, N., & Longhi, J. (2013). Atteindre l’interdiscours par la circulation des discours et du sens. Langage et Societe, 144(2), 65–83. https://doi.org/10.3917/ls.144.0065.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Herring, S. C. (2013). Discourse in Web 2.0: Familiar, Reconfigured, and Emergent. In D. Tannen & A. M. Trester (Eds.), Discourse 2.0. Language and New Media (pp. 1–26). Washington: Georgetown University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kakutani, M. (2018). The Death of Truth. New York: Tim Duggan Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (2007). Online Memes, Affinities, and Cultural Production. In M. Knobel & C. Lankshear (Eds.), A New Literacies Sampler (pp. 199–228). New York: Peter Lang.

    Google Scholar 

  • Livinsgtone, S., & Brake, D. R. (2010). On the rapid rise of social networking sites: new findings and policy implications. Children & Society, 24(1), 75–83.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1099-0860.2009.00243.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meunier, J.-P. (2003). Approches systémiques de la communication. Bruxelles: De Boeck.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Miltner, K. M., & Highfield, T. (2017). Never gonna GIF you up: analyzing the cultural significance of the animated GIF. Social Media + Society, 3(3), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305117725223.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morales, F., & Simelio, N. (2015). Television and identities: analysis of the consumption of ‘telenovelas’ by the Latin American community in Spain. Identities, 23(5), 591–609. https://doi.org/10.1080/1070289X.2015.1042479.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, R. (2000). TV Drama: “Flexi-Narrative” Form and “a New Affective Order”. In E. Voigts-Virchow (Ed.), Mediated Drama – Dramatized Media (pp. 111–118). Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier.

    Google Scholar 

  • Oltean, T. (1993). Series and seriality in media culture. European Journal of Communication, 8(1), 5–31. https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323193008001001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pi, S.-M., Chou, C.-H., & Liao, H.-L. (2013). A study of Facebook groups members’ knowledge sharing. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(5), 1971–1979. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.04.019.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Proulx, S., Millette, M., & Heaton, L. (2012). Médias sociaux. Enjeux pour la communication. Québec: Presses de l’Université du Québec.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rose, E. (2012). Hyper attention and the rise of the antinarrative: reconsidering the future of narrativity. Narrative works: issues, investigations & interventions, 2(2), 92–102.

    Google Scholar 

  • Salt, B. (2001). Practical film theory and its application to TV series dramas. Journal of Media Practice, 2(2), 98–113.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sarfati, G.-E. (2011). Analyse du discours et sens commun: institutions de sens, communautés de sens, doxa, idéologie. In J. Guilhaumou & P. Schepens (Eds.), Matériaux philosophiques pour l’analyse du discours (pp. 139–174). Besançon: Presses Universitaires de Franche-Comté.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shifman, L. (2013). Memes in a digital world: reconciling with a conceptual troublemaker. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 18, 362–377. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcc4.12013.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stockinger, P. (2001). Traitement et contrôle de l’information. Paris: Hermès.

    Google Scholar 

  • Trilling, D., Tolochko, P., & Burscher, B. (2016). From newsworthiness to shareworthiness: how to predict news sharing based on article characteristics. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 94(1), 38–60. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077699016654682.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Van Den Akker, C. (2013). History as dialogue. On online narrativity. Low Countries Historical Review, 128(4), 103–117. https://doi.org/10.18352/bmgn-lchr.9354.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Viale, R. (2001). Reasons and reasoning: What comes first. In R. Boudon, P. Demeulenaere, & R. Viale (Eds.), L’explication des normes sociales (pp. 215–236). Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wagener, A. (2014). Creating identity and building bridges between cultures: the case of 9gag. International Journal of Communication, 8, 2488–2502.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wagener, A., & Rahimy, T. (2015). The Need to Belong: Perpetual Conflicts and Temporary Stability. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press.

  • Wagener, A. (2018). A theory of interactional systems: semantic connections and relational contextics. International Journal of Applied Systemic Studies, 8(1), 32–50. https://doi.org/10.1504/IJASS.2018.091845.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weng, L., Flammini, A., Vespignani, A., & Menczer, F. (2012). Competition among memes in a world with limited attention. Scientific Reports, 2(335), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep00335.

  • West, L. E. (2013). Facebook sharing: A sociolinguistic analysis of computer-mediated storytelling. Discourse, Context & Media, 2(1), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcm.2012.12.002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Albin Wagener.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wagener, A. Hypernarrativity, Storytelling, and the Relativity of Truth: Digital Semiotics of Communication and Interaction. Postdigit Sci Educ 2, 147–169 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-019-00066-7

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-019-00066-7

Keywords

Navigation